The Nativity Arthur Hughes 1858Clerical Whispers reports the halting of the popular Birmingham Nativity Trail, staged in the city’s art gallery for the past eight years. The free trail was launched by David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham in December 2007. Illustrating the Christmas story through the eyes of some of the world’s greatest artists, the trail used to run from the end of November until Christmas Eve: “It covered 10 paintings in seven of its galleries, including the largest watercolour in the world, The Star of Bethlehem, painted between 1887 and 1891, by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a triptych from the early sixteenth century by Adriaen Isenbrandt,The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, painted around 1620 by Orazio Gentileschi” and The Nativity by Arthur Hughes ,1858 (above).

A spokeswoman for the independent Birmingham Museums Trust which took control of the art gallery and museums from Birmingham City Council in 2012 blamed a lack of funding for the decision to halt what had been a very popular event, though Arts Council England has awarded the trust £5,091,615 over a three-year period. She said: “We are not holding the nativity trail at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery this year, as we are currently reviewing all programming across Birmingham Museums sites in light of changing resources.”

The Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, emphasised that the leaders of other faiths in Birmingham all supported and respected the Nativity trail and the Christmas crib, as Christians of various traditions respected the faiths and festivals of others.

A virtual trail is still possible via: